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Literature review on how celebrity endorsement influence the consumer purchase intention

Influence of Celebrity Endorsement on Purchase Intentions

Much research has been done on the topic of celebrity endorsement and consumer behaviour, however, it is impossible to review all of them in this chapter. Therefore, the researcher will focus on celebrity culture and some aspects of celebrity endorsement including celebrity endorsement in literature, models of celebrity endorsement, celebrity endorsement influence on young consumers and celebrity endorsement on social media.

Celebrity Culture

According to De Backer (2012) and Cashmore (2014), celebrity culture has become a feature of social life, which even surrounds and manipulates people. The fact that today’s celebrities are promoted both as special and ordinary figures with problems that can be familiar with everyman lowers the barrier between celebrity status and the consumers of popular culture. Consequently, the celebrity is “drawn into the routine everyday experience” (De Backer, 2012: 494). Moreover, celebrity is no longer simply a well-known person but can be “manufactured” by the celebrity industry (Furedi, 2010; Driessens, 2013; Cashmore, 2014). The prosperity and deep intrigue of celebrity into society and culture are attributed to the media (De Backer, 2012; Driessens, 2013; Cashmore, 2014). According to Cashmore (2014: 8). “Media involvement” is the essence of the contemporary celebrity culture: consumers are persuaded that ordinary people “with no talent, no obvious gifts, nor any characteristic deserving of distinction were worthy of our serious attention just because they were in the media” and as long as the audience remains interest in them, those people remain celebrities.

Celebrities also possess power to persuade consumers to buy. According to Cashmore (2014:2), celebrity provides a solution for advertisers when there are many similar or even identical products to theirs on the market, which are being demonstrated in celebrity endorsement. Celebrities allow their names attached to a product and get paid to make compliments on that product in order to persuade consumers to buy (Cashmore, 2014: 14). The more credible the celebrity seems, the more likely the consumers is to take notice of the message (Cashmore, 2014: 173). Moreover, consumers tend to attribute more prestige to people who are known by many than who are known by fewer people (De Backer, 2012). Besides, media provide celebrities with visual present which is believed to add more credibility to the celebrities (De Backer, 2012: 147). Visuals not only brings audience a sense of authenticity that induces them to believe what they are seeing, but also create an illusion of encounters: they “meet” the stars so often that they start to think those celebrities are parts of their social network (De Backer, 2012: 148, 149).

Overview of celebrity endorsement literature

The most common definition of celebrity endorser used in extant literature such is the definition of McCracker (1989: 310): ‘any individual who enjoys public recognition and who uses this recognition on behalf of a consumer good by appearing with it in an advertisement.’ (Sonwalkar et al, 2011; Muda et al, 2013; Jain & Roy, 2016; McCormick, 2016; Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016; Knoll et al, 2017). From McCracker’s definition of celebrity endorsers, researchers such as Muda et al (2013); Awasthi & Choraria (2015) and Knoll et al (2017) define celebrity endorsement as an “advertising technique” that employs the image and the status of the celebrities for the brand or product promotion, as well as brand differentiation, brand recognition, brand recall and so on. Besides, celebrity endorsement is also perceived by Sonwalkar et al (2011: 34) as a “channel of communication” where celebrities act as the brand spokesperson and “by extending their popularity and personality they certifies the brand’s claim and position”. However, according to Bergkvist & Zhou (2016), McCracker’s definition of celebrity endorser and celebrity endorsement definitions by other researchers seems to be outdated in the contemporary advertising industry. Nowadays, celebrity endorsement appears in many other modes of marketing communication other than just advertisement. Thus, Bergkvist & Zhou (2016: 644) proposed an updated definition: “a celebrity endorsement is an agreement between an individual who enjoys public recognition (a celebrity) and an entity (e.g., a brand) to use the celebrity for the purpose of promoting the entity”. This revised definition seems to be more relevant to the present-day landscape of advertising when celebrity endorsement is not only present on traditional advertisements but also on social media and networking sites. Moreover, this definition is applicable not only for consumer goods but also for services and non-commercial entities such as political parties and non-profit organizations (Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016).

Celebrity endorsement is widely recognized as a very popular advertising strategy (Erdogan, 1999; McCracken, 1989 cited in Malik & Guptha, 2014; Knoll et al, 2017). The history of celebrity endorsement dates back to the nineteenth century (Erdogan, 1999) and its development was accelerated by the arrival of television in the late 1960s when brands wanted to feature with media stars to attract consumers’ attention (Jain & Roy, 2016). Since its outset, celebrity endorsement has been heavily employed in marketing communication to make the advertisements stand out in the surrounding media clutter (Muda et al, 2013). Some research suggest that every fifth advertisement features celebrity, but the estimates vary across different countries US: 10% (Belch and Belch, 2013) or 25% (Stephens and Rice 1998) or 19% (Elberse & Verleun 2012); the United Kingdom, UK: 21% (Pringle and Binet 2005); Japan: 70% (Kilburn 1998) (Knoll et al, 2017). Therefore, it can be true that celebrity endorsement has become a “ubiquitous feature of modern day marketing” (McCracken, 1989 cited in Malik & Guptha, 2014: 129).

Literature in celebrity endorsement has suggested a number of reasons for its popularity among advertisers. One of the most important reasons is that celebrities help the advertisements stand out and constantly attract consumers’ attention in the clutter of environment due to the celebrities’ status and their physical appeal to the public (Erdogan, 1999; Muda et al, 2013; Jain & Roy, 2016). Besides, according to Kelman (1961) and Ohanian (1990) (cited in Muda et al, 2013: 13), because celebrities are considered to be readily identifiable, as well as well-respected and believed to be trustworthy, consumers are more likely to “internalize the “things” they say about the endorsed products”. Hence, celebrity endorsement can generate high recall rates for the advertising message (Erdogan, 1999; Muda et al, 2013; Jain & Roy, 2016). According to Erdogan (1999), Popescu (2014), Malik & Guptha (2014), McCormick (2016), Mat Dom et al (2016), celebrity endorsers are more effective than non-celebrity endorsers in creating desirable outcomes such as positive attitudes towards the brand, higher purchase intentions and rise in actual sale. Celebrity endorsement can positively influence brand identification, brand recognition, brand position and brand reposition (Muda et al, 2013; Pradhan et al, 2014). In addition, according to Erdogan (1999), celebrity endorsers have qualities such as attractiveness and likability which can be transferred to the products or the brand through the marketing communication activities. Therefore, consumers can associate the endorsed products or the brands with the qualities of the celebrities. In terms of per consumer’ s perception, Clark & Horstman (2003) (cited in Malik & Guptha, 2014: 128) suggest that such consumers believe endorsed products “would have higher purchase value than its counterpart”, which can motivate consumers to the purchase decision.

However, recent research have shown that there is a substantial decline in the celebrity utilization in advertising over the past decade (Schimmelpfennig & Hollensen, 2016). Celebrities are less likely to be perceived as role models for consumers, hence, celebrity endorsement is considered no longer more effective than advertisements using other marketing techniques (Schimmelpfennig & Hollensen, 2016). The research by Schimmelpfennig and Hollensen (2016:15) also suggested that besides the good celebrity/product fit, in order to make the celebrity endorsement effective, it is important that the advertisement can tell a compelling endorser story to “add substance to the brand personality”. Individuals with genuine talent and real passion for their profession might be better to serve as role models for consumers than expensive celebrities who have endorsed multiple products and are fed up by consumers (Schimmelpfennig & Hollensen, 2016).

Models in celebrity endorsement

According to Erdogan (1999), the literature on celebrity endorsement consists of four main streams of research: The Source Credibility Model, The Source Attractiveness Model, The Congruence or Match-up Model and The Meaning Transfer Model. Besides, other models such as the ‘Hierarchy of Effects Model’ (Lavidge and Steiner (1961) (cited in Pradhan et al, 2014) and Elaboration Likelihood Model (Chaubey et al, 2013) also appear in research on celebrity endorsement.

The Source Credibility Model and The Source Attractive Model can be sorted in the same category under the generic name The Source Models (Amos et al, 2008; Erdogan, 1999). The Source Credibility Model analyses the factors that leads consumers to think the communicator is credible (Hovland et al, 1953 cited in Amos et al, 2008). This model says that the credibility of the endorsers depends on the perceived level of expertise and trustworthiness that consumers have in the endorsers (Amos et al, 2008; Erdogan, 1999; Chaubey et al, 2013). Expertise refers to the knowledge, experience or skills of the endorsers (Erdogan, 1999). Expert sources are very likely to affect the perception of consumers about the endorsed products’ quality (Erdogan, 1999; Chaubey at al, 2013). According to Ohanian (1990) (cited in Amos et al, 2008), consumers are inclined to agree with recommendations from the source perceived as high expertise than those from low expertise source. The other factor of The Source Credibility Model is the trustworthiness of the endorsers. The trustworthiness involves the level of confidence that consumers have in the endorsers, whether the endorsers are believable, honest and reliable (Erdogan, 1999; Amos et al, 2008; Chaubey et al, 2013). According to Chao et al (2005) (cited in Amos et al, 2008), the trustworthiness of endorsers is regarded to bring positive effect to the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement.

The Source Attractiveness Model says that the effectiveness of the message depends on the similarity, familiarity and liking of the endorsers (Erdogan, 1999; Amos et al, 2008). If a consumer finds the celebrity endorser familiar and similar to her and she likes the celebrity, she is more likely to perceive the endorser attractive. According to Erdogan (1999), attractive communicators are more successful in changing belief and generating purchase intentions than the unattractive counterpart. Celebrity endorsers do not only attract consumers by their physical attractiveness but they can also appeal consumers by virtual attractiveness such as lifestyles and intellectual skills (Erdogan, 1999). However, the influence from the attractiveness of the endorsers on consumers’ purchase intention seems to be ambiguous (Erdogan, 1999). On the other hand, Baker and Churchill (1977) (cited in Amos et al, 2008) claim that although the attractiveness of the endorsers helps increase the positive advertisement evaluations, it does not help in stimulating stronger purchase intentions.

The Match-up Model suggests that there should be a perfect match between the celebrity image with the product message (Erdogan, 1999; Chaubey et al, 2013, Amos et al, 2008). This match involves the fit between the celebrity personal characteristics and the brand attributes (Erdogan, 1999). The lack of connection between the celebrities and the brand can lead consumers to understand that the company or the brand have paid an amount of money to the celebrity for the endorsement. As a result, the proper celebrity/product fit are of great importance for companies when choosing celebrity for the endorsement or the advertisement (Chaubey et al, 2013).

The Meaning Transfer Model involves the process in which celebrity’s symbolic meanings go beyond that person and transfer into the endorsed brand or product (Erdogan, 1999). McCracken (1989) (cited in Chaubey et al, 2013; Knoll at all, 2017) describes the meaning transfer process in three stages. In the first stage, consumers associate a particular celebrity with meanings such as personality, lifestyles and attitudes (Chaubey et al, 2013). In the endorsement process, those properties of the celebrity can be transferred into the brand or the product through the advertisements featuring with the celebrity (Chaubey et al, 2013). Eventually, consumers acquire the brand meaning through the consumption (Chaubey et al, 2013). At this point, the meanings of the celebrity endorsers are transferred to the brand or the product and reside in the consumers’ mind (Chaubey et al, 2013). According to Knoll et al (2017), The Meaning Transfer Model goes along with The Match-up Model. When there is a match between the product (or the brand) and the celebrity endorser, it is easier for the meanings of the celebrity to be integrated in the endorsed product (or brand) (Lynch & Schuler, 1994 cited in Knoll et al, 2017).

Influence of celebrity endorsement on young consumers’ attitudes and purchase intentions

Literature about celebrity endorsement’s influence on young consumers have one assumption in common which is the fact that young consumers are more susceptible to celebrity endorsement than the older counterparts (Bailey, 2007; Jorge, 2011; Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016; Knoll et al, 2017). According to a research by Atkin and Block (1983) (cited in Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016), celebrity endorsement effects were more significant on younger (13-17 years) than older (18-77 years) consumers. Similar finding was revealed in the research by Knoll et al (2017): celebrity endorsement produced strongest effects on adolescents. However, researchers such as Freiden (1984) and Ohanian (1991) failed to find any differences in responses of consumers at different age to celebrity endorsement (Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016). Besides, according to Knoll et al (2017), celebrity endorsement becomes less influential on young consumers when their age increased. Nevertheless, brand experience was believed to be the factor which can moderate the effect of consumer’s age, which means when consumers had greater brand experience, there could be no difference in the meaning transfer effects due to their age (Knoll et al, 2017).

A study by Bailey (2007) investigated the responses of young consumers to positive/neutral/negative information about celebrity endorsers. The research result indicated that both positive and negative information about celebrity endorsers made young consumers skeptical about the brand (Bailey, 2007). While they might not turn off a brand by negative information about celebrity endorsers as long as their scandals or controversy were not strongly linked with the brand, they do not entirely trust the positive information about endorsers (Bailey, 2007: 86). The research finding suggested that the neutral information about celebrity endorsers could be beneficial for the brand when the targeted audience is young consumers (Bailey, 2007).

Research about celebrity endorsement effects also reveals that celebrity endorsement is a powerful tool in advertising when young consumers are targeted. Bailey (2007) suggests that young consumers are the primary targets of celebrity endorsement. According to Jorge (2011: 53), celebrities’ private lives and affluent lifestyles are greatly interested by young people as they symbolize a dream of success seemingly within everyone’s reach in a society that talents are paid off with great economic capacity. Moreover, the products that one consumes can be associated with his self-identity and his material possessions can express how important he is in a particular group or in a society (Belk, 1985 cited in Knoll et al, 2017). Therefore, celebrity endorsement adds some meanings into the products or the brand, which makes the products more appealing and prominent, as a result, young consumers try to communicate a statement about themselves through their consumption (Knoll et al, 2017). Knoll et al (2017) also implies that young consumers are constantly seeking for products that reflect their self-perception, thus, the celebrity in advertisement matches their self-image, and they are more likely to purchase an endorsed product.

Celebrity endorsement on social media

The emergence of social media has drastically changed the advertising landscape and has become an important advertising channel (Um, 2016; Knoll et al, 2017). Since celebrity endorsement has long been employed in traditional media and proved its high potential to bring positive attention to brands, it is likely to be effective on social media (Um, 2016). In fact, celebrity endorsement has come into non-advertising forms such as postings on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram (Cunningham & Bright, 2012; Um, 2016; Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016). Celebrities make their appearance on social media not only to connect with their fans, promote their own activities but also to promote the brands they endorse (Cunningham & Bright, 2012; Um, 2016).

Due to the frequent use of young consumers, celebrity endorsement on social media would be effective when the young consumers are targeted (Knoll et al, 2017). According to Knoll et al (2017), nowadays young consumers, or millennials are not easy to be manipulated but when they follow a celebrity on social media, they are more likely to pay attention to the products or brands that celebrity endorses. In terms of gender, female consumers are more prone to buy a product introduced by their favorite celebrities than male consumers (Khan & Dhar, 2006; Wilcox & Stephen, 2013; Wilcox et al., 2011 cited in Knoll et al, 2017). Besides, when consumers’ self-esteem level is high and they feel positive, celebrity endorsement on social media is likely to lead consumers to purchase for indulgence, hedonic purchase or impulse purchase rather rational purchase (Wilcox & Stephen, 2013 cited in Knoll et al, 2017).

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The effects of celebrity-brand congruence and publicity on consumer attitudes and buying behavior

Marketers use celebrity endorsements to make advertisements believable and to enhance consumer recognition of the brand name. However, once a direct link has been formed from a celebrity to a brand, the negative information about the celebrity may reflect on to the endorsed brand. Applying the S-O-R model and the balance theory, the purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of celebrity-brand congruence and publicity on consumers’ attitudes toward the celebrity and brand as well as their buying intention. A survey of a 2 (congruence vs. incongruence) × 2 (positive vs. negative publicity) experimental design was conducted for this study. A total of 120 female Millennial consumers answered the survey and 105 surveys with usable data were collected. The mean age of the participants was 24 years old (SD = 3.28). Results found that the celebrity-brand congruence and publicity play a significant role in consumer behavior related to attitudes toward the celebrity and brand/product, as well as buying intention. Thus, retail marketers need to allocate more investigation into celebrity endorsements that match with brand image that can lead to long-term, positive partnerships.

Introduction

Each day consumers turn on the television and browse the internet and are bombarded with advertisements from both known and unknown brands. This overload of advertisement hinders a brand’s ability to create a unique position in the marketplace and receive attention from consumers (Rodgers and Thorson 2000). A celebrity endorsement has been used for decades as a marketing tool to promote brands or products, and in turn have become a large part of modern marketing (McCracken 1989). Especially, advertising through online social networks using celebrity endorsers to promote products has become a key practice in marketing strategy and a more powerful method than any other mass media (Li et al. 2012). Previous research suggests that as many as 25% of all television commercials and 10% of advertising budgets involve celebrity endorsements (Erdogan et al. 2001). In the United States, 14% to 19% of advertisements were featured celebrities endorsing the products and brands (Elberse and Verleun 2012). Previous research shows that there is a direct relationship between the use of celebrities in advertisements and improvement in company profits. Thus, marketers use celebrity endorsements to make advertisements believable and to enhance consumer recognition of the brand name (McCracken 1989). The use of celebrities can help companies create their unique position in the marketplace and help influence a positive brand image and consumer buying intention (Ranjbarian et al. 2010). Thus, this leads to positive attitude toward the brand and an identifiable personality for a particular brand (Till and Busler 2000; Thomson 2006).

On the other hand, the attitudes toward a celebrity transfer to the endorsed brand, and once a direct link has been formed from a celebrity to a brand, the negative information about the celebrity may reflect on to the endorsed brand (Till and Shimp 1998; White et al. 2009). For example, a professional golfer, Tiger Woods, was involved in one of the largest celebrity scandals in 2009 and influenced the brand images he endorsed (Hawkins et al. 2012). With many of his endorsement deals, the negative publicity involving his infidelity affected the brand and the how the brand was perceived. At the time both Tag Heuer and Nike endorsed Tiger Woods. While Nike decided to stick by the golfer, Tag Heuer dropped Tiger Woods from his endorsement deal with their company (Hawkins et al. 2012). Because of the scandal, Nike lost $1.7 million in total sales, and almost 105,000 customers (Edwards 2010). Overall, celebrity endorsement can be effectively used as a promotional strategy since celebrities are typically viewed as both attractive and likable, however, it may affect the consumer’s attitudes toward the brand negatively when there is negative publicity on the celebrity endorser (Thwaites et al. 2012).

Despite the importance of celebrity endorsements, few attempts have been made to evaluate the potential impact of negative celebrity publicity, celebrity endorsement, the consumers’ attitude toward the brand after the publicity scandal, and their buying intention. In addition, the effect of celebrity-brand congruence and negative publicity on consumers’ buying intention is unknown. The present study addresses the research gaps by applying (1) the “Stimulus-Organism-Response (SOR)” theory to examine Millennial consumers’ attitudes toward the brand and celebrity, which finally affect their buying intention, and (2) the balance theory to measure their responses to celebrity endorsed ads. Therefore, by applying the S-O-R model and the balance theory, the purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of celebrity-brand congruence and publicity on consumers’ attitudes toward the celebrity and brand as well as their buying intention.

The conceptual framework

The conceptual framework for this study is based on the S-O-R theory from cognitive psychology (Zimmerman and Jonelle 2012) and the balance theory from social psychology (Heider 1958). The S-O-R theory is used to explain consumers’ attitude and buying intention influenced by congruent/incongruent advertisements and positive/negative publicity. The balance theory is used to explain relationships among celebrity, publicity, and consumers’ attitude and buying intention. This study predicts that celebrity-brand congruence and publicity influences attitude toward the celebrity and the brand, as well as buying intention. Furthermore, Millennial consumers’ attitude toward the celebrity and brand will influence their buying intention.

Literature review

Millennials

Millennials are a viable consumer group to study because they are highly populated and active in the marketplace with an immense spending power (Giovannini et al. 2015). Due to these factors, this generation has transformed the market for every life stage they enter (Morton 2002). Millennials span around 17 years from ages 20 to 36 and are mainly children of the Baby Boomer generation. This generation comprises 76 million consumers (Giovannini et al. 2015) with a spending power of $600 billion a year (Kennedy 2001). This is the largest generational cohort in the US and they are often referred as the Generation Y, Echo Boomers and Nexters (Morton 2002). Millennial consumers are known for having less disposable income than baby boomers, mainly because they are still young and most of them have just entered college and the workforce. This generation is also the most educated so they encountered a more challenging job market (Morgan Stanley 2016). This generation of consumers has grown up in a media saturated and consumption driven society, and are very market savvy and brand conscious consumers (Bolton et al. 2013). Millennials’ buying power continues to grow as they age and they are known to “love to shop” (Lee and Cosenza 2002). Millennials who account for 33–35% of retail spending are able to stay connected with brands wherever they go and heavy users of technology including smartphones and tablet (Barton et al. 2014).

A celebrity endorser is one of the effective marketing tools in advertisements, which can exert greater influence on consumers’ attitudes and buying intention. According to the new research by Roth Capital Partners reported by eMarketer 78% of Millennials are less likely to make purchases based on a celebrity endorsement (McCormick 2016) and more influenced by peer-to-peer marketing on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube (Chadha 2017). However, when Millennials follow celebrities on social media who endorse products, they are more likely to pay attention because they tend to replicate looks of celebrities they admire for their identity development (McCormick 2016). They are also more likely to be persuaded to buy the endorsed product if celebrity endorsers appeal in advertisements that match their self-image (Lippe 2001). Millennials are a large and affluent segment that retailers need to understand if they want to increase their market share. With such a large buying power, retailers are seeking to learn as much as possible about this generational cohort. The youngest segment of this cohort is college students. College students are a viable market that many retailers target because of their size, role as trendsetters, brand loyalties, early product adoptions and probabilities of higher standards of living once they graduate (Wolburg and Pokrywczynski 2001). Today’s college students are the last of the Millennial cohort to enter college. Millennial college students are an important segment of the cohort to study because they have a unique buying behavior and positive attitudes toward online shopping (Arnaudovska et al. 2010).

Celebrity endorsement

As consumers’ demands and expectations rise, marketers are continuously changing and updating their marketing methods in order to effectively and emotionally approach their target consumers. Thus, there has been an increase in celebrity endorsements into the advertisement world as these popular advertisement methods provoke consumers’ attitudinal and emotional reactions, and influence consumer brand choices and behaviors (Sami 2006). A celebrity is defined as a widely-known personality who is recognized by a certain group of people (Schlecht 2003). They have some characteristics, such as attractiveness, extraordinary lifestyle, or special skills, thus differing from common people and they enjoy a high degree of public awareness. Celebrities can fall into different groups based on their accomplishments, such as actors, television stars, models, athletes, musicians, and artists. Celebrities often enjoy their notoriety, and cause great influence on the endorsed product. They often become tied with their endorsed product and known for their prior accomplishments. The celebrity typically conveys a convincing message to the target market. Brand communication messages delivered by celebrities and famous personalities create and maintain higher appeal, attention, and recall in highly cluttered environments than those delivered by non-celebrities (Davies and Slater 2015).

In addition, many individuals often aspire to have similar values and lifestyles of the celebrities they deem successful (Sami 2006). Frazer and Brown (2002) concluded that these consumers selectively choose which values and celebrity behaviors that they admire to integrate into their own lives. Fans of celebrities may seek to imitate or impersonate a certain celebrity’s behavior in order to increase their own personal self-esteem. This can include imitating speech, dress, communication, and the brands they choose to use and purchase (Sami 2006). These behaviors prove the power of celebrity endorsement, and why celebrities have become so important in modern day marketing. Previous research shows how celebrities have positive effects on clothing choice, product choice, buying behavior, and even healthy lifestyles (McCracken 1989; Till and Busler 1998). Researchers also found that the influence of celebrity endorsers is more effective in the United States on women than on men (Howard 2002). In terms of generation cohort, Millennials are more likely to pay attention to celebrities and purchase their endorsed products such as food, alcohol, and fashion items (Pringle and Binet 2005). Researchers found that Millennials are influenced by celebrities four times more likely than Baby Boomers (Barton et al. 2014).

Celebrity-brand congruence

Most advertisers insist that the correct selection of the right celebrity is very important for the success of the advertisement because consumers typically believe the celebrity should have high positive affect and recognition, and the image of the celebrity must match with that of the product (Choi and Rifon 2012). For example, sporting goods are endorsed by famous sportsmen: Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods endorse Nike and David Beckham endorses Adidas, etc., while the choice of a movie star is not effective to endorse sports products. An important factor in determining the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement is celebrity-brand/product congruence (Choi and Rifon 2007). A good match-up between a celebrity and a product is more effective for generating positive advertisement evaluations that enhance endorser believability and advertising effectiveness than a bad fit between the two (Davies and Slater 2015). A congruent product-endorser match is more likely to persuade consumers to buy the endorsed brand by transferring cultural meanings residing in their brand image to the product. Moreover, many studies show that a celebrity has a greater impact on consumers in terms of attitude and purchase intention than a non-celebrity spokesperson (McCormick 2016). Previous literature identifies family and friends as being perceived to be more trustworthy than salespeople, and many consumers think of celebrities as friends although they might not actually know them (Erdogan 1999; Choi and Rifon 2007; Escalas and Bettman 2017).

At first glance, it may seem logical that congruence between the celebrity and brand endorsed should have a positive impact on the brand image and that, the stronger the link, the more impact the association should have on the brand. Furthermore, the better the celebrity is suited to the brand or product, more relevant or congruent the celebrity/brand pair is perceived to be, then the greater the positive response to advertising in terms of attitude and purchasing intent will be (Till and Busler 2000; Batra and Homer 2004). However, it is possible to imagine a more complex relationship and examine an alternative hypothesis (e.g., that a certain level of incongruence may have a positive impact on response to advertising, particularly in terms of the brand image). Indeed, a moderate level of incongruence between an expectation and an object may be beneficial, as it can be perceived to be interesting and positive (Lee and Thorson 2008). A relatively poor fit between brand and celebrity may be stimulating and encourage individuals to process the information more intensively and elaborate more (Lee 2000).

Publicity of celebrity

The positive image that celebrities cast on the target consumers will help the message in the advertisement to be more persuasive, thus making the brand more attractive to them; whereas negative information about celebrity endorsers can have a negative impact on the consumers’ attitudes and beliefs (Thwaites et al. 2012). It is noted that marketers hope that their target markets’ positive feelings toward the celebrity endorser will transfer onto the endorsed brand, and in turn make the brand more attractive to the audience. Therefore, problems come for the brand when the celebrity is involved in publicity that changes or damages his or her reputation. This change can potentially alter consumers’ perceptions of the endorsed brand. Previous literature shows that negative information has a disproportionate influence on beliefs and judgments, and it has stronger influence than similar amounts of favorable information. Negative information seems to have a greater long-term effect on memory than neutral information (Baumeister et al. 2001). Because of how consumers react to this information, negative information about a celebrity endorser has significant impact on the consumer decision-making process. As a result, the increasing use of social media and increased access to information has made it difficult for marketers to manage the negative publicity revolving around their celebrity endorsers (Solomon et al. 2009).

Consumer attitude toward the brand and celebrity

An attitude can be defined as an individual’s assessment or opinion of people’s objects, advertisements or issues. In most cases, attitude tends to show stability over time, but is not necessarily permanent because it is a lasting and general evaluation of people, objects, etc.; it changes by marketing activities, such as television advertising and celebrity endorsement (Solomon et al. 2012). Internal and external factors can help shape or change a person’s attitude. In regards to this study, consumers’ attitude may be affected by the influence of negative publicity and brand congruency within the advertisements. Marketers hope that their target audience will gain positive feelings toward a chosen celebrity that will transfer toward the endorsed brand and enhance the brand’s standing (Choi and Rifon 2007). Celebrity endorsements with negative publicity can do as much or more to alienate them as they do to attract them (Choi and Rifon 2007). For example, if consumers have negative feelings toward a chosen celebrity, they are more likely to have negative feelings toward the endorsed brand as well. In terms of celebrity endorsements, attitude is often a commonly brought up topic. Typically, consumers have predefined attitude toward which celebrities they like and dislike based on the characteristics of credibility, expertise, trust, and attractiveness and decide which celebrities to use as persuasive tools in their advertisements. If the celebrity is well liked by the consumer, then the consumer will verify the celebrity as a source of credible information and in turn the endorsement creates a high degree of certainty and positive attitude for the consumer (Surana 2008).

Consumer buying intention

Purchase intention is defined as the potential transaction behavior and purchase likelihood of consumers exhibited after evaluating a product (Schiffman and Kanuk 2000). Purchase intentions or a customer’s buying intention is the likelihood that he/she is going to buy a particular product in the future, in response to his or her need for the product, knowledge about the product, opinions about the product, and the manufacturing company/brand (Bradmore 2004). The likeability created from the celebrity endorsement and product attractiveness is a large influence on consumer purchase intention (Chaudhary and Asthana 2015). Based on external information and consumer evaluation of a product, consumers may either have high or low purchase intention. Consumers are more likely to purchase a product with high purchase intention, whereas they are less likely to purchase a product with low purchase intention. Purchase intention has many influences such as price (Alford and Biswas 2002), attitude toward the brand (Johnson and Russo 1984), and brand loyalty. Consumers search their previous experiences for information regarding the goods they intend to purchase (Bradmore 2004). Once the correct amount of information is obtained, the consumer will start to evaluate and consider alternatives for the product needed. Often times, purchase intention is used to measure the behavioral intentions of the consumers.

S-O-R theory

Previous literature has stated the importance of using the Stimulus-Organism-Response framework within a research study based on consumer behavior (Jacoby 2002). Also known as the S-O-R model, this framework hypothesizes that environmental cues or stimuli (i.e., stimulus) affect the consumer’s emotional state (i.e., organism), which will lead to their behavior being affected (i.e., response) (Rajaguru 2014). A model of this framework has been developed by separating the variables into their appropriate places in the framework. The S-O-R framework has been extended for applications in advertising (Olney et al. 1991) and many areas of consumer behavior (Rose et al. 2012).

Stimulus is defined as an influence that arouses an individual. Stimulus is also considered to be environmental cues that affect the emotional state of the consumers, based on the stimulus the overall behavior of the consumer is altered and thus the response (Zimmerman and Jonelle 2012). In this study, there are two stimuli: advertisements and publicity, which influence the Millennials’ internal state. Organism is considered to be the emotional state after the stimuli are introduced. The organism for this study represents the consumers’ emotional responses toward the celebrity and brand (Zimmerman and Jonelle 2012). This is the state when the consumer starts to form opinions, thoughts, and emotions toward the advertisement, celebrity, and the brand. The current study proposes that two stimuli (i.e., advertisements and publicity) exert significant effects on Millennials’ attitudes toward the celebrity and brand.

Response is the last segment of the S-O-R framework. Previous literature characterizes response as the predicted consumer behavioral response to the reactions within the organism section of the model (Zimmerman and Jonelle 2012). In this study, the response is the Millennial consumer’s overall buying intention. Based on the stimulus and organism the consumer’s response will be different. It is predicted that based on the advertisements and publicity, the Millennial consumers’ buying intention will either be affected positively or negatively (see Fig. 1).

Application of S-O-R model for the current study

Balance theory

The balance theory, which was derived from social psychology, examines the interpersonal relationships and the attitude development and transformation within the relational triads (Heider 1958). Simply, the balance theory explains that individuals in a triad seek balance in their interpersonal relationships among their attitudes toward these relationships. Heider (1958) proposed that interpersonal attitudes (i.e., the positive or negative relationship of a person to another person to another impersonal entity) and unit relationship (i.e., two entities belonging to a class through relations such as similarity, causality, membership, possession or belonging, and such a relationship can be neither positive nor negative) influence each other. In the case of three entities, a balance state exists if all three relations are positive in all respects or if two are negative and one is positive (Heider 1958). Any unbalanced state would trend towards achieving balance: if no balance state exists, then force towards this state will arise. Either the dynamic characteristics will change, or the unit relations will be changed through action or through cognitive reorganization. If change is not possible, the state of imbalance will produce a tension. Retail marketers often create a positive sentiment relation between the consumers and the product by forming a positive unit relation between a product (e.g., buying fashionable clothing or driving a high-performance car) and a well-known personality (Solomon et al. 2012). The balance theory thus explains the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements based on the celebrity’s image and consumers’ attitude. Within the balance theory, if a consumer has positive attitude toward a celebrity using a certain product or service, then he/she is more likely to have positive attitude toward that product or service. However, consumer’s negative attitude toward the celebrity involved in personal scandal or negative publicity can result in consumer’s negative attitude toward the brand. The balance theory in this study states that both positive publicity and consumer’s attitude toward the celebrity or brand will result in positive buying intention. Also, positive attitude toward the celebrity and positive attitude toward the brand will result in positive buying intention.

Hypotheses development

A total of seven hypotheses was developed for this study based on the literature review and theoretical frameworks (see Fig. 2). Previous literature has shown that celebrity endorsers can exert greater influence on consumers’ attitude and buying intention (Princicple and Binet 2005; Sami 2006; McCormick 2016). Consumers’ attitude is more positive when there is a celebrity-brand congruence (Till and Busler 2000; Batra and Homer 2004) and positive information about celebrity (Thwaites et al. 2012) are perceived. Consumer’s purchase intention has been found to be influenced by attitude toward the celebrity (Solomon et al. 2012) and attitude toward the brand (Johnson and Russo 1984; Spears and Singh 2004). Based on the foregoing discussion, this study predicts that both celebrity-brand congruence and publicity have significant effects on attitude toward the celebrity and the brand, as well as buying intention. Therefore, following hypotheses are proposed:

Theoretical framework for this study

(a) Celebritybrand congruence and (b) publicity will influence attitude toward the celebrity.

(a) Celebritybrand congruence and (b) publicity will influence attitude toward the brand.

(a) Celebritybrand congruence; and (b) publicity will influence buying intention.

(a) Attitude toward the celebrity; (b) attitude toward the brand will influence buying intention.

This study also hypothesizes that Millennial consumers’ attitude toward the celebrity, attitude toward the brand, and their buying intention would be significantly different under the conditions where two stimuli (e.g., celebrity-brand congruence and publicity) are manipulated. The design was analyzed through the use of a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) procedure. These hypotheses include:

Attitude toward the celebrity will be different by (a) celebritybrand congruence and (b) publicity.

Attitude toward the brand will be different by (a) celebritybrand congruence and (b) publicity.

Buying intention will be different by (a) celebritybrand congruence and (b) publicity.

Method

Sample and procedure

A target sample of college students between the ages of 18–25 were invited to participate in the study. The researcher recruited female college students throughout a large Southeast university in the US as current college students are Millennial consumers. A Qualtrics survey of a 2 (congruence vs. incongruence) × 2 (positive vs. negative publicity) experimental design was conducted for this study (see Fig. 3).

Experimental design for this study

An email invitation with a survey link was sent to students in a Southeast university of the US to complete the online survey. Once participants agreed to fill out the questionnaire in the survey website, they were encouraged to fill out the survey questions mainly based on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from “1 = strongly disagree” to “7 = strongly agree.” During the survey, they were randomly assigned to see conditions in which the advertisement was either celebrity-brand congruence or not. The scale of celebrity-brand congruence consisting of 4 items was adopted from Choi and Rifon (2012). An example statement is “I think Sarah Jessica Parker promoting Steve Madden shoes is a good fit”. In addition to celebrity-brand congruence, the random assignment was also governed whether news story about the celebrity is positive or negative. After looking at the advertisements and the news, respondents were asked to rate their attitude toward the celebrity and brand on a 7-point semantic scale between two bipolar adjectives, such as “Unpleasant-Pleasant,” “Unfavorable-Favorable,” “Bad-Good,” or “Unlikely-Likely”. The news scenarios were created by the researchers and pilot tested to measure for validation and manipulation check. Example item used to measure attitude toward the celebrity included “How would you describe Sarah Jessica Parker after looking at this ad and news?” The participants were asked to rate their buying intention using a 7-point semantic scale (1 = Unlikely/Improbable/Impossible; 7 = Likely/Probable/Possible). An example item used to measure buying intention is “How interested are you in purchasing Steve Madden shoes after looking at this ad and news?” Finally, they answered the questions including participants’ demographic information, such as gender, age, level of education, and ethnicity. SPSS 22 was used to help analyze the data. Descriptive and frequency analyses were used to compute the mean scores based on the respondents’ demographic files. Then, an exploratory factor analysis, multiple regression, and one-way ANOVA analysis were performed to test the hypotheses. The data was securely stored with a password in the researcher’s computer. Only general demographic information was collected about the participants.

Instrument development experiment design

In this study, advertisements were developed to convey celebrity-brand congruence and celebrity-brand incongruence for the female celebrity. Sarah Jessica Parker (i.e., SJP) was chosen as the celebrity endorser for this study based on a preliminary survey given to 55 college students. The students were asked to state which out of 10 celebrities were thought to be the most fashionable (SJP, Jennifer Lawrence, Jennifer Anniston, Kylie Jenner, Kendall Jenner etc.), and what products they seemed to be associated with. In the end, SJP was selected for this study as a majority of the students chose her to be the most fashionable. The brands, Steve Madden (congruent) and Hoover (incongruent), were chosen to be endorsed. In addition to advertisement manipulation, a negative publicity story and a positive publicity story were created to influence consumer’s attitudes toward the advertisement, brand and celebrity. In this study, Qualtrics randomly distributes the survey to the participant. Each female participant saw (1) randomly selected advertisement and (2) randomly selected publicity story. For example, one participant might see SJP with shoes and a negative news story while another might see SJP with a vacuum and a positive news story. Below are pictured examples of the manipulations used in the study (see Fig. 4).

Sarah Jessica Parker-Steven Madden and Sarah Jessica Parker-Hoover

SJP positive publicity

Sarah Jessica Parker was awarded the NYC Citizen of the Month award last night. She has been very active in the community philanthropically for over 10 years. As of this year, Parker started a new foundation called, “Uplift the Children” in order to bring awareness to the city’s impoverished children. This program seeks to bring education, life necessities, and homes for the children in need. Parker has said she will continue to improve the program and donate money to those in need in her beloved community.

SJP negative publicity

Sarah Jessica Parker was seen yesterday walking into the St. Regis hotel in NYC with an unidentified younger man. The pair were seen walking into the hotel and checking into a hotel room at the front desk. After 3 h, the couple was seen leaving the hotel hand in hand. Parker has been married to Matthew Broderick since 1997, and there is no knowledge of the couple splitting up. The couple are parents to 3 children.

Results

Background characteristics

A total of 120 college students answered the survey and 105 surveys with usable data were collected. The average age was 24 years old with standard deviation of 3.28. Table 1 shows the education levels of the respondents and more than half (51.4%) of respondents were graduates from 2-year colleges and 29.5% of them were graduates from 4-year colleges, followed by 9.5% of high school graduates, and 6.7% master’s graduates (see Table 1).

Regarding classified ethnicity, most of the respondents were Caucasian (71.4%) and the second largest groups were, Hispanic/Latino (8.6%) and Asian/American (8.6%), followed by African-American (4.8%), Asian (2.9%), and American Indian (1.9%).

EFA and regression analyses

An exploratory factor analysis was performed and a factor loading above .40 was retained for each factor and cross-loaded items were removed from the further analyses (e.g., celebrity-brand congruence, negative publicity, attitude toward the celebrity and brand, and buying intention) (see Table 2). For the variables of celebrity-brand congruence, negative publicity, attitude toward the celebrity and brand, and buying intention, principal component factor analyses using Varimax rotation were performed on the multiple items to divide into a factor structure. In order to ensure the consistency of variables, a reliability test was carried out using Cronbach’s alpha (α = .70) to select the final items and each factor has a satisfactory reliability above .90 (see Table 2), indicating the items within each instrument were consistently used to measure the variables across each Millennial consumer (Santos 1999).

Multiple regression analyses were used to test H1, H2, H3, and H4 concerning whether relationships among the variables exist. Regarding H1, results showed the overall model was significant (R 2 = .526, F = 56.487, p < .001) and both celebrity-brand congruence (β = .381, p < .001) and positive publicity (β = − .586, p < .001) positively influenced attitude toward the celebrity (see Table 3).

A multiple regression analysis to predict attitude toward the brand based upon celebrity-brand congruence and negative publicity was conducted for testing H2. The regression model for the effect of celebrity-brand congruence and positive publicity was significant (R 2 = .446, F = 41.014, p < .001) and both celebrity-brand congruence (β = .598, p < .001) and positive publicity (β = − .250, p < .01) were significant predictors of attitude toward the brand (see Table 4). The respondents also reported significantly greater positive attitude toward the brand based on the celebrity-brand congruence than publicity.

Regarding H3, celebrity-brand congruence and negative publicity were the independent variables and buying intention was the dependent variable. Regression analysis results revealed that the overall model was significant (R 2 = .370, F = 29.904, p < .001). Celebrity-brand congruence positively influenced respondents’ buying intention (β = .583, p < .001). However, positive publicity did not predict respondents’ buying intention (β = − .131, p > .01) (see Table 5). Therefore, H3, predicting direct effects of celebrity-brand congruence and publicity on buying intention, was partially supported.

For H4 was tested to predict respondents’ buying intention based upon their attitude toward the celebrity and brand. The multiple regression model for the effect of the attitude toward the celebrity and brand was statistically significant (R 2 = .612, F = 80.592, p < .001). However, the variable of attitude toward the brand (β = .839, p < .001) was the only significant predictor of buying intention (see Table 6 and Fig. 5).

Results of hypotheses testing. **p < .01 *** p < .001

ANOVA analyses

One-way ANOVA analyses were performed to test H5, H6, and H7. ANOVA results showed that most of the hypotheses, except for H5a, were supported with a statistically significant level (p < .05) (see Table 7). Regarding H5, there were significant differences among 4 different groups in terms of respondents’ attitude toward the celebrity, F(3101) = 12.650***, p < .001 and toward the brand, F(3101) = 4.624**, p < .01 with regard to congruence and publicity. The Bonferroni post hoc test was conducted to determine which groups were significantly different. The first group (congruence and positive publicity) has the most positive attitude toward the celebrity (Mgroup1= 5.90, SD = 1.32) compared to the second group (congruence and negative publicity) (Mgroup2= 4.22, SD = 1.45) and the fourth group (incongruence and negative publicity) (Mgroup4= 3.95, SD = 1.70). Also, the second group (Mgroup2= 4.22, SD = 1.45) has more negative attitude toward the celebrity compared to the third group (incongruence and positive publicity) (Mgroup3= 5.73, SD = 1.28). The third group (Mgroup3= 5.73, SD = 1.28) has more positive attitude toward the celebrity compared to the fourth group (Mgroup4= 3.95, SD = 1.70).

For H6, there was a significant difference in consumers’ attitude toward the brand, F(3101) = 4.62**, p < .01. The mean score of attitude toward the brand for the first group (Mgroup1= 5.67, SD = 1.70) was different from the fourth group (Mgroup4= 4.10, SD = 1.71). Lastly, H7, a statistically significant difference was also reported among 4 groups on buying intention, F(3101) = 4.24**, p < .01. The buying intention level for the first group (Mgroup1= 5.37, SD = 1.96) was significantly higher compared to the third group (incongruence and positive publicity) (Mgroup3= 3.90, SD = 1.54) and the fourth group (Mgroup4= 3.68, SD = 2.19).

Discussion

This study examined (1) the effects of celebrity-brand congruence and publicity on Millennial consumers’ attitude toward the celebrity and brand, as well as buying intention, and (2) the differences among their attitude toward the celebrity and brand, and buying intention based on the manipulation of celebrity-brand congruence and publicity. Among the hypotheses, H1, H2, H6, H7 were fully supported. The current study found that both celebrity-brand congruence and positive publicity positively influenced attitude toward the celebrity and brand. Although previous researchers have found positive image toward the celebrity endorser will make the brand more attractive to the audience (Thwaites et al. 2012), the impact of celebrity-brand congruence played a more important role in predicting attitude toward the brand than that of publicity in this analysis. This finding implies that congruence factor became more critical in evoking Millennials’ positive attitude toward the brand. The results showed that there was a significant difference in the influence of celebrity-brand congruence on buying intention. The publicity, however, did not directly influence buying intention. There were also significant differences among 4 groups on attitude toward the celebrity and brand, and buying intention. The results supported the successful application of the S-O-R model and balance model on the relationship among congruence, publicity, attitude, and buying intention. Organism (attitude) was found to be different by two stimuli (brand-congruence advertisement and publicity) and based on the organism, consumer’s response (buying intention) was either positively or negatively affected. Research findings explain the presence of a balance state when two positive links (e.g., publicity and attitude toward the celebrity) were added, consumer’s buying intention will be positively changed, which in turn bring a positive link between the consumer and the product.

Previous findings from Thwaites et al. (2012) showed that a consumer’s attitude toward a celebrity was not influenced by the impact of negative information including rumor, media footage, and celebrity publicity on celebrity ad endorsements. This study, however, found that Millennial consumers’ attitude toward the celebrity, attitude toward the brand, and their buying intention would occur to the greatest difference under the condition where celebrity-brand congruence is combined with positive publicity. The first group (congruence and positive publicity) had the highest mean scores on attitudes toward celebrity and brand, and buying intention compared to the fourth group (incongruence and negative publicity) with lowest mean scores. This means Millennial consumers who are exposed to both celebrity-brand congruence and positive publicity appear to have significant differences in attitude toward the celebrity and brand and tend to like and purchase the brand/product compared to those who are not exposed to them. Interestingly, although previous researchers have found that negative publicity about the celebrity can influence the attitudes and buying intention (Till and Shimp 1998), this study found that the congruence is a more important influencer than publicity to motivate Millennial consumers to purchase a brand/product. That is, the celebrity-brand congruence plays a significant role in consumer behavior related to the brand/product. Also, the findings reveal that consumers’ attitude toward the celebrity and brand positively influenced their buying intention significantly, but the impact of attitude toward the brand is observed to be considerably greater than that of attitude toward the celebrity in generating buying intention. Thus, Millennials with positive attitude toward the brand are more likely to purchase the products from that brand than those with positive attitude toward the celebrity.

Implications and future study

The study results provide an important theoretical implication that Millennial consumers’ buying intention is mainly influenced by the celebrity-brand congruence and attitude toward the brand than the publicity and attitude toward the celebrity, which were not examined in previouse research (Johnson and Russo 1984; Till and Shimp 1998; Erdogan 1999). This finding suggests that Millennial consumers who perceive a high degree of the fit between a celebrity and a brand have positive attitude toward the brand, and in turn this influences purchase decisions, This can be applied to their behavioral loyalty for actual repurchase intention and positive word of mouth. Another value of this study is the research finding related to the balance theory. The balance theory assumes that when all three valences (publicity, attitude toward the celebrity, and buying intention) are positive, then there is a balance state. If negative sign is formed in any part of triad, a balance state will be lost and there will be dramatic change in consumer’s attitude. However, there are many other factors influencing consumers’ buying intention and only two factors were examined in the present study. Many more variables affect the buying intention of consumers. Therefore, further research with other potential variables, such as fashion involvement, media exposure, celebrity scandal, and source credibility, and possible moderating variables (e.g., personality traits and celebrity-consumer connection) can help better understand the relationship between consumers’ attitudes and buying intention.

Regarding the effects of congruence and publicity, given that this positive combination of brand congruence and a celebrity’s publicity plays an important role in creating positive attitudes toward the celebrity and brand, the results of this study would help retail marketers to select the celebrities matched with their brands, as well as to monitor positive publicity for the effectiveness of their endorsement. Because celebrity endorsements are closely related to a company’s brand recognition and sales in today’s marketing environment, it is imperative to understand how they affect consumers’ buying behavior. Understanding the importance of celebrity-brand congruence and publicity can provide not only helpful insights on the factors marketers should consider when a celebrity is not really connected to the brand image or becomes associated with negative publicity. This will result in higher consumer buying intention, which in turn would positively affect the company sales.

As Millennials love to shop and are brand and fashion conscious (Bolton et al. 2013; Noble et al. 2009), it is essential for retail marketers and managers to determine the right celebrity who fits with the brand/product and to communicate this linkage between the celebrity endorser and a brand as this can help Millennials to identify the brand/product that reflects their self-perception (Lippe 2001) and therefore, they are more likely to purchase and be loyal to this brand/product. It is suggested that retail marketers should reach Millennials whose choices are directly influenced by the content on Social Networking Sites (SNSs) by conducting a viral marketing campaign through the social media pages of celebrity endorsers that they like and trust to build influence through SNSs. Retail marketers are also suggested to allocate more investigation into celebrity endorsements that match with brand image and to focus on increasing opportunities for having good partnerships with brand companies that generally sponsor famous celebrities with positive publicity. Once a celebrity signs a contract with a company, it is recommended that the firm requires the celebrity to follow rules of the handbook or guidelines where moral standards are discussed. Also, compensation for a loss needs to be clearly defined in order to avoid incidences that may smear their reputation and trustworthiness in the eyes of the public. While attractiveness is easily attained, truth worthiness is hard to achieve. Thus, agents and celebrity handlers should respond to the public through a swift and sincere apology when the celebrity has made any imporper behavior and a negative scandal.

Further research is suggested to conduct more in-depth studies with a qualitative approach where the mechanism of brand congruence and negative publicity are being explored in order to further obtain a broader foundation of knowledge with respect to the celebrity endorsement. This study is limited to two brands and the celebrity relationships. Other celebrities and brands in the different product categories could generate different results. Overall sample size targeting college students were small and this might affect the results of this study. It is recommended that future research should recruit a larger sample with equal numbers of gender populations to further understand Millennial consumers’ attitude toward the celebrity and brand, and buying intention. Future research could also be conducted with different demographic characteristics, such as more diverse ethnic samples from different countries, other age groups (e.g., baby boomers and generation X), and male participants to clarify more specific issues that can be beneficial for the retail marketers.

References

Alford, B. L., & Biswas, A. (2002). The effects of discount level, price consciousness and sale proneness on consumers’ price perception and behavioral intention. Journal of Business, 55(9), 775–783.

Arnaudovska, E., Bankston, K., Simurkova, J., & Budden, M. C. (2010). University student shopping patterns: Internet vs. brick and mortar. Journal of Applied Business Research, 26(1), 31.

The Influence of Celebrity Endorsement on Food Consumption Behavior

Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Associated Data

Data of this research are available on request due to privacy restrictions. The data presented in this research will be available on request from the corresponding author.

Abstract

“Is consumer food behavior influenced by celebrity endorsement?”. This question remains unsolved despite celebrities constantly recommending different products in their social media networks. Much of the literature on celebrity endorsement focuses on the characteristics of celebrities influencing consumers’ behavior, but there is scarce research about how celebrity endorsements about food and food products influence consumers’ behavior. In this context and based on the source credibility and source attractiveness models, as well as on the match-up theory, this study aims to examine whether consumers’ food purchase intention and consumers’ willingness to pay a premium price is influenced by celebrity endorsement. For this purpose, an empirical study is developed through Structural Equation Modeling (PLS-SEM) based on data gathered from 316 consumers who read celebrity recommendations. Findings report that consumers are most influenced in their food consumption behavior by the congruence between the celebrity endorsement and the product being recommended, and by the celebrity credibility. Interestingly, celebrity recommendations show a similar influencing pattern both for consumers’ food purchase intention and consumers’ willingness to pay a premium price for food. The major contribution of this research is to show that congruence is the main route by which celebrity endorsement influences food consumption behavior.

1. Introduction

Celebrity endorsement is one of the most popular tools in marketing communication and has been profusely used in order to promote brands, products and services. In fact, the use of celebrity endorsement as a method of communication has increased significantly in recent years and has become a relevant phenomenon worldwide. The reason is its great effectiveness as a communication tool, its positive impact on consumer attitudes and behavioral intentions for the endorsed good [1], as well as its influence on consumers’ purchase behavior [2], brand awareness and brand recognition [3]. Further, celebrity endorsement is a communication tool that makes products and brands more attractive and appealing to potential customers; accordingly, many consumers are willing to purchase and pay a premium price for the products their favorite celebrities endorse. Similarly, nowadays celebrities are gaining influence among consumers, given the increase in their presence in social media, and evidence shows that recommendations by celebrities on social networking platforms are increasingly important to change consumers’ behavior.

In this context, research on celebrity endorsement has traditionally focused on the source characteristics of the endorser and on the transfer of meanings between the endorser and the recommended product or brand. In fact, important efforts have been made in marketing research to understand the underlying factors that drive celebrity endorsement influence on consumers’ behavior. Previous research on celebrity endorsement is mostly developed from three theoretical approaches—source credibility [4] and source attractiveness models [5], affect transfer theory [6], and match-up theory [7]—which aim to examine the bases of the influence of celebrity endorsement on consumers’ behavior.

However, more research is required to examine what factors of celebrity endorsement influence food consumption behavior and whether celebrity endorsement influences consumers’ willingness to pay a premium price for the endorsed food. Therefore, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, this research is one of the first to empirically investigate the influence of celebrity food endorsement on consumers’ behavior, and more precisely, the attributes of celebrities that are influencing consumers’ food purchase intention and their willingness to pay a premium price. More precisely, the purpose of the present study is to empirically investigate the influence of celebrity characteristics, namely credibility, trustworthiness, expertise, attractiveness and congruence with the endorsed product on consumers’ food behavior.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Celebrity Endorsement as a Communication Tool

Celebrity endorsement enjoys great popularity as a marketing communication tool. In recent decades, companies and marketers have used celebrities to promote their products, services and brands; today, with the increasing development of the internet and social media, celebrity endorsement is becoming an increasingly important medium for communicating with consumers.

According to [8], a celebrity endorser can be defined as “any individual who enjoys public recognition and who uses this recognition on behalf of a consumer product, by appearing with it in an advertisement”. Therefore, celebrity endorsement refers to a marketing communication tool that represents a person who uses his/her public recognition and popularity in order to promote the consumption, use or sales of a product, service or brand [8]. Later, authors such as [9] conceptualized the term celebrity as “any person who enjoys high social reputation and public recognition including movie stars, artists, singers, athletes, politicians, and so on”. So, it can be stated that celebrities are individuals who are successful in their professions, who enjoy public recognition and who have media attention.

Prior research shows that for most consumers, celebrities represent idealized role models, and many individuals enjoy learning, reading and keeping updated about celebrities’ lives [10]. Consequently, celebrities are effective endorsers, due to the connotations for their aspirational reference groups [6]; further, previous researchers indicate that celebrity endorsement is an effective way to enhance purchase intentions and purchase behavior [2].

Interestingly, the receptivity of consumers to the messages delivered by celebrities is particularly high for product categories with high social and psychological risks [1,11] and for product categories involving factors of discriminating taste, other individual’s opinions and self-image [12]. In addition, there is abundant research indicating that the characteristics of the celebrity endorser influence the endorsement effectiveness.

2.2. Celebrity Endorsement of Food Products

Celebrity endorsement changes consumer behavior and attitudes, but these influences may change depending on the product category, and this effect is known as the significance of the type of product endorsed. In other words, in addition to endorser-specific factors, the product category and product type being endorsed constitute a determining factor of the celebrity’s impact on consumers’ behavior [11].

More precisely, low-involvement products and fast-moving consumer goods purchased through routine decision-making and chosen quickly by consumers without a deep information search or comparison are effectively endorsed through likable spokespersons [13].

Regarding the celebrity endorsement of food products, it should be noted that previous research mostly examined and found empirical support for the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement in food choice and food intake [14,15]. Most previous studies focused on marketing campaigns using celebrity endorsement that encouraged healthy dietary habits such as the consumption of vegetables, fruit or the consumption of water [16,17]. Further, food and beverage companies particularly use celebrity endorsement of athletes in order to promote food products’ consumption specially targeting children and young consumers [18]. Finally, recent research shows that the appearance of a celebrity endorsing food products posted on online social media such as Instagram has a greater impact on consumer behavioral responses than any other type of endorser [19].

3. Research Hypotheses Development

This study develops a conceptual model to examine the influence of celebrity characteristics on consumers’ food purchase intention and their willingness to pay premium prices for food items recommended by celebrities ( Figure 1 ). The conceptual model is theoretically grounded on the source credibility [4] and source attractiveness models [5], as well as on match-up theory [7]. In addition, following [20], we have considered that credibility could be operationalized as a second-order construct of trustworthiness, expertise and attractiveness, as depicted in Figure 1 .

Conceptual model for food purchase intention and willingness to pay a premium price influenced by celebrity endorsement.

3.1. Credibility of Celebrities

The term credibility can be understood as the extent to which a source is perceived as possessing significant knowledge or enough experience to offer an unbiased judgment [21]; therefore, credibility outlines whether an individual recognizes a claim as being true, unbiased and honest. Accordingly, endorser credibility could be defined as “the extent to which a source is perceived as possessing expertise relevant to the communication topic; and in turn, can be trusted to give an objective opinion on the subject” [22].

The effectiveness of celebrities in influencing consumers’ behavior was first explained through the source-credibility model. This theoretical model, developed by [4] and further substantiated by [22], proposes that a source should encompass two requirements in order to be credible, namely trustworthiness and expertise. Therefore, in this theoretical framework, credibility could be considered as a multidimensional construct composed of the dimensions expertise and trustworthiness.

According to the source-credibility model, the persuasiveness of a message greatly depends on the credibility of the message sender; and in turn, the power of the celebrity endorsement is based on the perceived level of trustworthiness and expertise associated with the specific endorser [1]. So, the message will have a more positive impact if the source—or the endorser—of a message is perceived as “credible”. Likewise, the source-credibility model was extended in order to include the attribute of the attractiveness of the source [22]; so that the effectiveness of the endorsement will be influenced by the attractiveness of the endorser.

The impact of endorser credibility on consumer attitude change and consumer behavior has received great attention in the marketing area. In general terms, credibility has proven to have a substantial positive influence on consumers’ attitudes and intentions [1,2], further influencing attitude towards products and brands and consumer purchase intention [3,23]. Similarly, those celebrity endorsements that are perceived as being more authentic or natural, such as an image of an endorser using a specific product in his/her daily routine on social media, have higher persuasive effects [24]. In addition, prior research reports that source credibility has a positive effect on willingness to pay a premium price [3,25]. Therefore, the following research hypotheses are presented:

The credibility of the celebrity positively influences consumers’ purchase intention.

The credibility of the celebrity positively influences consumers’ intention to pay a premium price.

3.2. Trustworthiness of Celebrities

Trustworthiness addresses the question of whether an individual could be considered believable [26]; accordingly, the concept of trustworthiness refers to the extent to which consumers believe the endorser has integrity and is honest [1,22]. Similarly, and regarding the trustworthiness of celebrities, this concept can then be defined as the perceived “willingness of the celebrity to make valid assertions” [8].

According to the source credibility model [4], trustworthiness is an attribute underlying source credibility that influences consumers’ attitudinal change [22]. Likewise, a celebrity endorser who is perceived as trustworthy is more likely to influence consumers’ attitudes and behavioral intentions [22] and will have a higher persuasive influence on consumers compared to other social influences [27]. Therefore, the celebrity’s trustworthiness is a key factor, since consumers get more easily influenced by an individual whom they trust [12].

In addition, the positive influence of the celebrity’s trustworthiness on consumer attitudes and purchase intention has been reported by [28] or by [29]. Hence, considering all the stated above, the following hypothesis is posed:

The trustworthiness of the celebrity positively influences the celebrity credibility.

3.3. The Expertise of Celebrities

Expertise refers to the message sender’s knowledge, experience and skills; and accordingly, expertness could be defined as “a persuasion cue that triggers individuals to use cognitive heuristics, such as statements made by experts that can be trusted” [30]. In addition, expertise describes the individual’s level of knowledge and could be conceptualized in terms of the level of experience, knowledge and problem-solving skills that a person has in a specific area. So, an expert is able to perform at a high level in a specific domain, and becoming an expert requires practice, experience and long-term training [31].

In the context of the source-credibility model, the source expertise could be defined as the degree of an endorser’s knowledge, experience and skills in a specific area [22], or as “the skills, knowledge or experience possessed by an endorser” [1]. Similarly, according to authors such as [29], the endorser expertise refers to the extent of perceived knowledge, understanding and relevant skills of an endorser. So, the endorser’s expertise stems from his/her ability to provide information based on his/her experience, aptitude or training.

According to the source-credibility model, an endorser who demonstrates expertise is more persuasive than an endorser who does not [1,22]; in turn, the expertise of an endorser is an important factor to increase the persuasiveness of marketing communication, since the endorser expertise relates to the validity of the product claims [32]. In addition, the expertise and competence of the endorser were also found to be positively associated with consumers’ attitude and behavior [9].

Celebrities regularly share their daily routine, activities, opinions or recommendations based on previous expertise on social media networks. Accordingly, celebrities are considered to be experts in their respective fields; and individuals are more likely to take recommendations conveyed by celebrities who are perceived as experts [6]. More specifically, the expertise of a celebrity provides consumers with detailed and specific information on products, leading to a more favorable attitude towards the endorsed product [33], to attitudinal change and to higher purchase intentions [1,22,28,32].

Finally, the expertise of an endorser has been shown to have a positive influence on credibility [4] and on consumers’ purchase intention [28]. Hence, the following hypothesis is presented:

The expertise of the celebrity with food products positively influences the celebrity’s credibility.

3.4. The Attractiveness of Celebrities

The source credibility model was extended to include the attractiveness of the source [3,22]. Accordingly, the source attractiveness model proposes that the effectiveness of an endorsement is influenced by the perceived level of the physical attractiveness of the endorser [22]. The underlying motive of the influence of the endorser attractiveness is that individuals draw satisfaction from believing that they have a similar attractiveness to the endorser, and in turn, they conform to the behavior advocated by the endorser [2].

More precisely, the source-attractiveness model proposes that the effectiveness of a message depends on the source familiarity, similarity and likeability [22]: the source familiarity refers to the knowledge of the source through exposure; the source likeability could be understood as the affection for the source derived by her/his physical appearance, physical attractiveness and behavior; and finally, the source similarity refers to the perceived resemblance between the endorser and the consumer. Consequently, endorsers who are well known, liked and perceived to be similar to the consumers will be attractive; and in turn, persuasive [22]. Similarly, other authors such as [8] reported that the endorser attractiveness refers to the endorser’s appealing nature, including attributes such as physical beauty or physical attractiveness, personality and familiarity. In this vein, other authors indicate that the endorser’s attractiveness also includes an attractive lifestyle and intellectual skills [1,27].

In addition, previous research reports that attractiveness—as a dimension of the source credibility—influences the receiver of communication [5] and that physically attractive individuals facilitate attitudinal change in a more effective way [30]. More precisely, researchers of source attractiveness found that physically attractive celebrities influence consumers’ behavior and consumer attitudes favorably compared to less-attractive celebrities [11,27,34] and that the celebrity endorsers’ physical attractiveness has a positive impact on consumers’ purchase intentions [29,34]. Finally, the attractiveness of an endorser has a positive influence on credibility [22]. Hence, this hypothesis is proposed:

The attractiveness of the celebrity positively influences the celebrity’s credibility.

3.5. The Congruence between the Celebrity and the Food Product Recommended

Traditionally, the effectiveness of endorsers was thought to be developed by the attributes of the celebrity, such as the trustworthiness, expertise and attractiveness of the endorser [4,22]. However, the effectiveness of endorsement in creating favorable attitudes and intentions may be influenced by other determining factors such as the endorser and product “match-up” [7] or the congruence between the endorser and the endorsed product, that is, the fit or the degree of consistency or similarity between the endorsed product category and the endorser.

In this context, the match-up theory developed by [7] aims to provide a model in order to explain how endorser effectiveness varies according to the different product categories, suggesting that an endorser would be more effective with a high perceived congruence between the endorser and the endorsed product or brand [7]. Therefore, it can be stated that in endorsement effectiveness there is also an effect of the product type: a specific endorser could be extremely suitable for certain products and not as suitable for other product categories. So, the better the endorser–product fit, as perceived by consumers, the higher effectiveness of the endorsement [1,8,11].

Accordingly, the match-up theory [7] provides a conceptual model for celebrity endorsements and proposes that when an adequate match-up between the celebrity and the endorsed product takes place, the obtained “match-up” becomes central to the message [35], making the celebrity recommendation effective [2,11,34], and increasing the favorable impact of the celebrity endorsement [36]. More specifically, prior research highlights the importance of the perceived congruence between the celebrity’s image and the product image to influence consumers’ purchase intention [37] to enhance the positive assessment of the endorser and the product [7,34] and to produce more favorable responses toward the endorsement [36]. Therefore, the selection of an endorser based on image congruence seems to be an adequate strategy for product categories that are not particularly related to attractiveness or performance, such as food products [38].

Finally, and considering that previous studies have demonstrated the influence of a good endorser–product fit on consumers’ purchase intention [37], the following hypotheses are presented:

The congruence between the celebrity and the endorsed food product positively influences consumers’ purchase intention.

The congruence between the celebrity and the endorsed food product positively influences consumers’ intention to pay a premium price.

4. Methodology

4.1. Measurement

The measurement variables for this research were selected based on previous research on the topic. In the first place, the credibility of celebrities was measured by three items adapted from [22] and two items adapted from [39]. In the second place, to measure trustworthiness, expertise and the attractiveness of celebrities [22] scale was used; and in addition, two items were adopted from [40] to measure the celebrities’ trustworthiness. Third, the congruence between the celebrity endorser and the food product being recommended was measured using 5 items adapted from [41] and from [42]. Then, the consumers’ purchase intention and their willingness to pay a premium price were measured using a 4-item scale and a 2-item scale adapted from [26], respectively, as shown in Table 1 .

Table 1

Variables and indicators.

Variables Indicators
Credibility
Ohanian (1990); Martins et al. (2017)
CRED1: Celebrities recommending food products seem to be sincere
CRED2: Celebrities recommending food products seem to be honest
CRED3: Celebrities recommending food products seem to be reliable
CRED4: Celebrity food influencers are a good reference for purchasing and consuming food products
CRED5: Celebrity food influencers are credible and convincing
Trust
Ohanian (1990); Terres et al. (2015)
TRUST1: I have confidence in the information/recommendations provided by celebrities regarding food products
TRUST2: Celebrities show high level of commitment to the consumers
TRUST3: Celebrities have high integrity when recommending food products
TRUST4: Celebrities care and are concerned about consumers
TRUST5: Food celebrity influencers consume the same food products they recommend
Expertise
Ohanian (1990)
EXP1: Celebrities recommending food products are experienced in this area
EXP2: Celebrities recommending food products are qualified in this area
EXP3: Celebrities recommending food products are skilled in cooking
Attractiveness
Ohanian (1990)
ATR1: The celebrity recommending the food product is attractive to me
ATR2: I pay more attention towards advertisements/recommendations presented by attractive/beautiful celebrities
Congruence
Speed and Thompson (2000); Dwivedi et al. (2016)
CONG1: There is a logical connection between the food product and the celebrity
CONG2: There is a match-up between the food product and the celebrity
CONG3: The combination of the food product and the celebrity is adequate
CONG4: The images between celebrities recommending food products and the products recommended are connected
CONG5: The image of celebrities recommending food products and the products recommended are closely related
Purchase intention
Wiedmann et al. (2014)
PINT: I am likely to purchase food products recommended by celebrities
PINT2: My willingness to purchase food products recommended by celebrities is high
PINT3: I would purchase food products recommended by celebrities
PINT4: Celebrity recommendations inspire me to purchase the recommended food product
Premium price
Wiedmann et al. (2014)
PREM1: I would be willing to pay a premium price for food products recommended by celebrities
PREM2: Food products recommended by celebrities are worth a higher price than other food products

4.2. Sampling and Fieldwork

The survey was conducted among consumers residing in Spain in June 2021. In order to prepare the research questionnaire, a pretest was carried out to determine a celebrity endorser of food products. More precisely, the celebrity endorser was selected based on several criteria. In the first place, the selected celebrity should enjoy great popularity and have a good public image among consumers residing in Spain. In the second place, the celebrity should be a local individual from Spain, given that native celebrities can generate more positive attitudinal responses [43]. In the third place, the celebrity should have a relationship with food. Therefore, following these criteria, the famous Spanish chefs Jordi Cruz and Dabiz Muñoz were chosen as the celebrities recommending food products on their social media. It should be noted that these two chefs have become part of the celebrity world, often appearing in TV shows and cookery books.

In the present study, we assume that celebrity endorsement of food products could be understood as the endorsement or recommendation of food products or food product categories—and, more precisely, unbranded food products—by celebrities. Further, in our study, the food endorsement was included as web content promoted in celebrities’ social media. That is, we examine celebrity-generated content whereby food products appear in content produced and shared by celebrities in their social media.

The obtained data were collected through random sampling using an online structured self-administered questionnaire. More precisely, the questionnaire consisted of three sections. Because the purpose of our study was to gather information about the influence of celebrity endorsement, a “yes/no” pre-screening question was incorporated in the questionnaire. This question was included in order to ensure that all the research participants read celebrity recommendations on social media. Therefore, participants who do not read celebrity endorsements were screened out of the survey.

Stimulus materials were presented to participants simultaneously with the questionnaire, showing the selected celebrities recommending different food products (Appendix A). Then, in the first section of the questionnaire, an introduction was included to explain the main purpose of the study. Next, the second section of the questionnaire incorporated questions regarding the variables under research, measured through a seven-point Likert scale with 1 indicating “strongly disagree” and 7 indicating “strongly agree”. The third part included socio-demographic questions and questions regarding food consumption. Finally, a total amount of 359 questionnaires were obtained, gathering 316 valid questionnaires; and in turn, yielding a sampling error of 5.62% at a confidence level of 95%.

The sample profile is shown in Table 2 . Regarding the participants’ gender, the 49.8% of the respondents were female, whereas 50.2% were male. Similarly, the great majority of the participants (41.0%) were between 31 and 40 years old, followed by individuals with ages between 41 to 50 years old (25.9%). Likewise, in terms of education level, 48.7% of participants have university studies, while 37.8% of participants have secondary education. In terms of household average income level, 38.4% of the sample indicated a monthly income level between 1800 and 2700 EUR/month. Finally, regarding the participants’ frequency of reading celebrity endorsements, the majority of the respondents (30.8%) reported a frequency of “once a week”, followed by participants who indicate that read endorsements “several times a week” (22.6%).

Table 2

Variable Category Frequency Percentage (%)
Gender Male 160 50.2
Female 156 49.8
Age 18–30 15 4.9
31–40 130 41.0
41–50 82 25.9
51–60 68 21.6
More than 60 21 6.6
Household average income (Eur/month) 900–1800 65 20.7
1800–2700 121 38.4
2700–4500 95 29.7
More than 4500 35 11.2
Education level Primary education 33 10.3
Secondary education 119 37.8
University studies 154 48.7
Doctorate 10 3.2
Frequency reading celebrity
recommendations
Daily 37 11.8
Several times a week 71 22.6
Once a week 97 30.8
Several times a month 66 21.0
Once a month 24 7.6
Occasionally/Several times a year 21 6.2

4.3. Data Analysis

Partial Least Square (PLS) path modeling was developed for the estimation and analysis of the research hypotheses using the Smart PLS 3.0. software (SmartPLS GmbH, Ahornstr. 54, 25474 Boenningstedt, Germany) in order to examine the proposed conceptual model and to test the research hypotheses [44], and more precisely, the consistent PLS algorithm was developed. The analysis through path modeling is developed to measure the influence of the different constructs and all the possible causal relationships among them. The present research used PLS-SEM as the method for data analysis because is a causal-predictive approach to SEM (Structural Equation Modelling) that allows the analysis of various relationships simultaneously and enables the estimation of complex models and structural paths without distributional assumptions of the data [45].

5. Results

5.1. Analysis of the Measurement Model

Before developing the path analysis, the measurement model was tested for reliability, validity and internal consistency ( Table 3 ).

Table 3

Factor loadings and indicators of internal consistency and reliability.

Construct Items Cronbach Alpha Standardized Loadings CR AVE
Credibility Cred1 0.882 0.863 0.914 0.679
Cred2 0.804
Cred3 0.785
Cred4 0.850
Cred5 0.816
Trust Trust1 0.875 0.842 0.909 0.667
Trust2 0.782
Trust3 0.832
Trust4 0.830
Trust5 0.795
Expertise Exp1 0.769 0.878 0.867 0.686
Exp2 0.775
Exp3 0.827
Attractiveness Attr1 0.783 0.775 0.823 0.701
Attr2 0.895
Congruence Cong1 0.857 0.832 0.898 0.637
Cong2 0.824
Cong3 0.752
Cong4 0.818
Cong5 0.761
Purchase intention Pint1 0.867 0.843 0.910 0.716
Pint2 0.827
Pint3 0.818
Pint4 0.894
Premium price Prem1 0.745 0.893 0.887 0.797
Prem2 0.892

In the first place, the Cronbach’s alpha values of each construct exceeded the suggested cut-off value of 0.70 [45], and constructs achieved composite reliability (CR) values higher than the commonly accepted threshold of 0.70, indicating an adequate internal consistency. In the second place, the convergent validity was analyzed through factor loadings and through the average variance extracted (AVE). On one hand, factor loadings reached values greater than the commonly accepted threshold of 0.70 [46], ranging from 0.752 to 0.895. On the other hand, the average variance extracted (AVE) values were higher than 0.50, indicating convergent validity.

Finally, the discriminant validity of the measurement scale was examined through the analysis of all the paired combinations of constructs. Following the criteria proposed by [46], the square root values of average variance extracted are higher than construct correlations ( Table 4 ), indicating the discriminating validity of the constructs.

Table 4

Correlations and discriminant validity values.

Cred Trust Exp Attr Cong Pint Prem
Credibility 0.824
Trust 0.503 0.817
Expertise 0.531 0.662 0.828
Attractiveness 0.578 0.512 0.671 0.837
Congruence 0.683 0.432 0.697 0.567 0.798
Purchase intention 0.661 0.612 0.615 0.512 0.602 0.846
Premium price 0.639 0.658 0.684 0.652 0.550 0.616 0.893

Note: the correlations between constructs are shown in the off-diagonal and bold numbers in the diagonal correspond to the square roots of AVE for each construct.

5.2. Analysis of the Structural Model

The analysis of the structural model and the relationships between constructs was developed through the coefficients of determination R 2 (explained variance) and the effect size (f 2 ) [45]. First, the criterion in order to evaluate the structural model was the coefficient of determination (R-square) of the endogenous variables; accordingly, these coefficients were measured. Our results show an R 2 = 0.832 for food purchase intention and R 2 = 0.757 for the willingness to pay a premium price ( Table 5 ). This means that more than 80% of the purchase intention and more than 70% are explained by the independent variables of our conceptual models. Secondly, the effect size (f 2 ) measures the strength of each variable in explaining endogenous variables. The results indicate that all the effect size values of the constructs achieve values higher than the commonly accepted threshold of 0.02 [45]. Third, the collinearity test for variance inflation factor (VIF) values achieved values lower than the accepted threshold of 5, indicating the adequacy of the structural model.

Table 5

Structural model evaluation.

Constructs VIF
Collinearity Assessment
Confidence Intervals Level of R 2 f 2 Effect Size
Credibility 4.547 0.038–0.529 0.828 0.114
Trust 4.703 0.432–0.917 0.534
Expertise 4.127 −0.072–0.435 0.056
Attractiveness 3.117 −0.110–0.275 0.046
Congruence 4.447 0.416–0.882 0.539
Purchase intention 0.832
Premium price 0.757

Finally, the SRMR is a measure of the structural model fit, and our results indicate that SRMR was 0.075, which does not surpass the threshold of 0.08, revealing reveals the good fit of the model. Similarly, the Chi-Square = 789.356 and NFI = 0.874 show an adequate structural model fit.

5.3. Analysis of the Relationships among Variables

The path coefficients, the corresponding t-values and levels of significance are shown in Table 6 for food purchase intention and for willingness to pay a premium price.

Table 6

Model resolution through PLS consistent algorithm.

Path Analysis Standardized β
Coefficients
t-Statistic p-Value Hypotheses Test
Credibility → Food Purchase intention ß1 = 0.116 ** 2.333 0.002 Hypotheses 1: Supported
Credibility → Premium price ß2 = 0.412 ** 2.300 0.002 Hypotheses 2: Supported
Trust→ Credibility Β3 = 0.542 ** 5.096 0.000 Hypotheses 3: Supported
Expertise→ Credibility ß4 = 0.046 ** 1.388 0.166 Hypotheses 4: Not Supported
Attractiveness → Credibility ß5 = 0.016 ns 0.991 0.332 Hypotheses 5: Not Supported
Congruence → Food Purchase intention ß6 = 0.539 ** 5.247 0.000 Hypotheses 6: Supported
Congruence → Premium price ß7 = 0.496 ** 2.966 0.003 Hypotheses 7: Supported
ns = no significant;
** significant (p < 0.05)
R 2 (Purchase intention) = 0.832
R 2 (Willingness to pay premium price) = 0.757

Regarding the consumers’ purchase intention, results indicate that consumers’ intention to purchase food products is positively influenced by the credibility of the celebrity and the congruence or match-up between the celebrity and food. More precisely, the congruence of the celebrity with food products was found to exert the highest influence of purchase intention (β6 = 0.539 **; p = 0.000), followed by the credibility of the celebrity endorser (β1 = 0.116 **; p = 0.002), which has a slight impact on the purchase intention.

Likewise, a positive influence was found for the celebrity trustworthiness on the credibility of the celebrity (β3 = 0.542 **; p = 0.000). Conversely, and contrary to our initial expectations, the expertise of the celebrity (β4 = 0.046 ns ; p = 1.388) and the celebrity attractiveness (β5 = 0.016 ns ; p = 0.991) do not show a significant influence on the credibility of the endorser. One possible reason for the lack of influence of the celebrity attractiveness is that—as reported in previous literature—the attractiveness of the celebrity endorser mostly influences consumer behavior in beauty-related products or in attractiveness-related products [1,36], which is not the case for food products.

Similarly, one potential explanation for the lack of significant influence of celebrity expertise may be that expertise could not be perceived as relevant by consumers when evaluating the credibility of a food endorser. One possible reason is that food products are frequently purchased and consumed by all consumers, and in turn, most of the consumers may have broad experience in food purchases. Another possible explanation is that consumers may rely more on the recommendations and perceptions of other consumers rather than on the recommendations of food experts. Further, this result is coherent with previous research indicating that the use of expert celebrities is not deemed necessary when recommending low-risk and non-financial products [12], which is the case with food. Additionally, our results are in line with [47], who reported that a trustworthy communicator is more persuasive than a communication who is not, regardless of whether he/she is an expert. Therefore, our findings suggest that as long as consumers perceive food endorsers as trustworthy, the celebrity would be perceived as credible and thus influence consumers’ purchase intention.

On the other hand, regarding the consumers’ willingness to pay a premium price for the endorsed food products, the congruence between the celebrity and food was found to have the highest impact (β7 = 0.496 **; p = 0.003); while the credibility of the celebrity shows a slightly lower impact on premium pricing (β2 = 0.412 **; p = 0.002) ( Table 5 ). That is, the celebrity match-up with food is the more relevant variable in consumers’ willingness to pay a premium price for the endorsed food, followed by the credibility of the endorser. So, our findings suggest that consumers, when deciding whether to pay a price premium for a food product, are similarly influenced by the congruence and the credibility of the celebrity endorser. In addition, and contrary to our initial expectations, our findings do not support a significant influence of the celebrity’s attractiveness (β5 = 0.016 ns ; p = 0.991) on the perceived credibility by consumers, as hypothesized. According to our results, it seems that consumers do not consider the celebrity’s physical attractiveness, nor his/her expertise with food when assessing the reliability of the endorser.

Therefore, the celebrity congruence with food, followed by the celebrity credibility, is the stepwise order of the influence of the attributes of celebrities in food consumption. So, it can be stated that the better the celebrity match-up with food, and the greater credibility, the greater influence of consumers’ food consumption behavior.

Finally, our results provide support for five out of seven of the proposed research hypotheses for food consumption behavior, since Hypotheses 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 are supported.

6. Discussion

This research aimed to examine what characteristics of celebrities influence food consumption behavior. The research question is the following: “Is consumer food behavior influenced by celebrity endorsement?”. According to our results the answer is, “Yes, and congruence seems to be the main route to influence food consumption behavior by celebrity endorsement”, since the celebrity congruence with the endorsed product was demonstrated to be the major factor influencing consumer behavior, followed by credibility.

More precisely, our findings show that consumers are more likely to purchase and pay premium prices for food products because of the credibility, congruence and trustworthiness of the celebrity endorsers. Therefore, these results indicate that celebrity endorsers who are considered to be congruent, honest and reliable, have integrity and are concerned about consumers are more likely to induce consumers’ food behavior. This finding is coherent with [38], who reported that when consumers perceive the image of a celebrity and a product to be congruent, the consumers are more likely to accept the endorsement message. Consequently, it can be stated that the characteristics of celebrity endorsers and their congruence with the recommended food product positively influence consumers’ food behavior, implying that celebrity endorsers serve as a relevant external information source. Therefore, one major contribution of the present research is to show that congruence is the most influential factor on consumer behavior it comes to recommending food products.

Another remarkable finding of the present research is that the attractiveness of celebrity endorsers shows no influence on credibility, or in turn on consumers’ behavior. One potential explanation for this result is that according to the match-up hypothesis [7], physically attractive endorsers have positive effects on consumers’ attitudes and consumers’ behavior only for attractiveness-related products such as personal care products, and food products do not fall into this product category. In other words, an attractive endorser will serve as an effective source of information for an attractiveness-related product or brand, while for attractiveness-unrelated products—such as food and food products—the match-up between the endorser attractiveness and the product does not take place. Similarly, and contrary to the initial expectations, the expertise of the celebrity endorser with food or cooking does not seem to influence the celebrity credibility, therefore not influencing food consumption behavior.

Another major contribution of this study, is that it provides empirical foundation of the similar pattern of the influence of celebrity recommendations on consumers’ purchase intention and their willingness to pay a premium price, since the credibility, congruence and trustworthiness attributes of a celebrity influence both outcomes.

7. Conclusions

This research contributes to the existing knowledge on celebrity endorsement by examining its influence on consumers’ behavior when recommending food products. More specifically, the present study reports that consumers are influenced in their food consumption behavior by celebrity endorsement through the celebrities’ congruence with the recommended product, their credibility and their trustworthiness. Therefore, celebrity endorsement could be considered an effective communication tool in the food marketing area, as long as the food endorsers are perceived as being congruent and credible by food consumers.

The findings of this research provide valuable managerial insights for food companies and food marketers. First, our findings suggest that the characteristics of celebrity endorsers have an impact on food consumption behavior, showing that congruent and credible celebrities have a positive impact both on food purchase intention and on the consumers’ willingness to pay a premium price. Interestingly, even though the source attractiveness model proposes the positive effect of celebrity attractiveness on consumers’ behavior, our findings report that attractiveness is not the best criterion in order to select celebrities for recommending food products, and it seems that it is better to use a congruent celebrity. So, in light of the results of our study, food marketers should care more and pay greater attention to celebrities’ congruence and give less importance to attractiveness and expertise of endorsers. Secondly, this research indicates that celebrity endorsement is an effective communication marketing tool for influencing food purchase intention and provides useful insights for selecting an effective food endorser, with his/her congruence with food being the main influencing factor. Finally, food marketers should keep in mind that carefully choosing a celebrity to influence food consumption behavior could contribute to increase consumers’ purchase intentions and help intensify the demand for specific food product categories. Therefore, our study provides valuable information on how celebrities contribute to consumer food purchase intention and to the proneness to pay a premium price.

This research has limitations that should be considered in future research. In the first place, both the celebrities presented as stimuli in the research are prestigious chefs, and celebrities from other areas such as television presenters or actors might have produced different results. In the second place, only male celebrities were presented in the stimuli of the study, and the use of female celebrities might have resulted in a different impact on food consumption behavior. Third, future research on the topic could examine the influence of other relevant food-related variables that are not included in our study, such as the consumer involvement with food, since different levels of food involvement might yield different results. Fourth, it would be interesting to investigate the relationship between celebrity credibility and congruence, since this link was not examined in the present research. In addition, another research limitation is that other items and measures of celebrity expertise could have influenced the results obtained, maybe reporting a significant relationship between expertise and celebrity credibility. Finally, this research investigated consumers’ response to social media recommendations, and future studies may examine the influence of food celebrity endorsement through traditional media.

Appendix A

Stimulus materials were presented to research participants when the questionnaire was administered. The stimuli present two popular Spanish celebrity chefs recommending food products in their social media networks.